Tag Archives: video

Mercator – close to the heavens

While supervising the Master students at our telescope on La Palma last autumn, I completed the missing scenes for a new version of my Mercator time-lapse movie. Please set it to at least 720p, or go to YouTube and set it to 1080p and full screen, and enjoy! (I know this is not very recent news, but it would be a pity to not have this as a memory on the blog.)

PS.: sorry for not posting during the last half year…

Daily commute at the ORM

I am back again on La Palma at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM) – for the 4th time already. I have 11 nights of work at the Mercator Telescope, then I will fly to Tenerife to continue there with another instrument. As always, I can only say that this island is amazing. Every time I take the taxi from the airport to the observatory, I can not stop staring out the window to look at the landscape. This is the first time I am here during summer, and I have to admit that the temperature is much nicer up here at 2300 meter, than it is in e.g. October. I don’t need my winter coat anymore, and I don’t need to put a kilogram of warm clothes (knee warmers, arm warmers, neck warmer, wind coat, rain jacket, etc.) on when I roll down with the bike on the morning, a simple jacket is enough. So during the day it is typically ~20°C (but it feels much more thanks to the Sun), while on the morning it is around ~15°C. Now again I took my racing bike with me (and I will have a week of cycling after my observing run on Tenerife), so already here I use it every day to commute between the Residencia and the Mercator Telescope.

I need to ride up once before dinner to start the calibrations (~5 PM), then I roll down to eat (~7 PM), and after a small nap I ride up to catch the sunset (which is around 9 PM) and start the observing night. Then I work till the Sun rises, and go down to sleep around 7:30 AM (and sleep from 8 AM to 4-4:30 PM). The ride itself is 2.65 km @ 6.9% with a maximum over 100 meters of 10.3% (a hard 3rd category climb in Tour de France terms), so it is not extremely difficult, but riding above 2000 m makes every climb a bit more challenging (click on the climb-plot and it will be bigger). But it is very good high-altitude training, and 3 times faster than walking! (I don’t even think about driving up with a car, that’s not my thing :D)

On the last afternoon I rode a new personal best up to the telescope, reaching the ‘summit’ in 11m 09s, which corresponds to a VAM of ~1000 Vm/h (yeah, I know it is not really a pro value, but who cares :D)! My previous bests from last October and this May were 12m 05s and 11m 36s, respectively, so the improvement is very clear. Oh, and these were ridden while carrying a backpack… After this record ride, I took the evening ride a bit easier and recorded the scenery (turn the volume down, if you don’t want to listen to my still quite hard breathing…). It is a nice place to work at ;)

It’s too late to be a pessimist!

This evening, one and a half year after it had appeared on YouTube, I finally watched “HOME” (during a low intensity recovery session on my indoor trainer). Climate change and overpopulation are known problems for the planet and its citizens. And among them; for us, humans. Independent of skin colour, country, origin and religion. It is our problem. A chain of problems which were and are caused by us…

It should be obligatory to watch this movie for all of us. You have one and a half hour for this. You must have this time, and now, not later. Because then it might be already too late… Watch the full movie on YouTube. And then think about how you live, and what do you do for our Home. And then think about the most important question: What are we waiting for?

Winter School on Tenerife – 2nd week

Ok, so back to Monday. What happened on Monday (22nd of November)? I guess just the usual lectures, as I can not remember anything special. Then on Tuesday, we had to present our poster “on the stage”, using a short PDF-presentation. Luckily I prepared the PDF already on the morning, because the afternoon turned out to be quite “unlucky” for my computer. As usual, I was listening to the lecture with my MacBook in front of me (for taking notes, following the talk, and – sometimes – checking e-mail…), and – as always – I had my drink right next to it. This was the only day, when I was drinking something else than water, as I had a full bottle of orange Gatorade left unopened from the climb on the weekend. So at a point during the afternoon session, I refilled my (wine) glass, and then while moving it back to the table, I hit the bottom of the glass to the table, which resulted in the glass flipping over and covering the full keyboard of my MacBook with ~2 dl of sticky orange juice… At this moment, everyone in the room became silent or said “uhhh :S”, then – after being frozen for one second due to the shock – I quickly turned off the computer and disconnected the power adapter, then turned the MacBook to its side, and tried to get off (blow off) the liquid stuff as fast as I could. After the monitor unexpectedly turned on and started to flicker, I also took out the battery… From this point, I could not do anything else, just let it dry, hoping that I would be able to turn it on after a while… Surprisingly, I handled the situation quite well… I thought there was no reason to freak out, as it would not solve anything anyway. I stayed calm and did not think about it at all :) So the presentation went very well on the evening.


On Wednesday we had a guided bus-tour to the Teide National Park and the Observatorio del Teide. First we drove up (with some photo-breaks) to the Residencia of the Observatory where we had small sandwiches and drinks, then we went to the Visitors’ Center to learn about the history, flora, and fauna of the area.


After a walk around in their botanic garden, we continued to the magnificent rock formations of the National Park, where we had a half hour to look around and take pictures. We took a lot :) Then we returned to the Observatory to visit the OGS (Optical Ground Station) – which has the same 1 meter Zeiss RCC telescope as the Hungarian Academy of Sciences on Piszkéstető (compare the one on Tenerife with the Hungarian) -, the THEMIS Solar Telescope, and the container of the GONG Network.


At sunset, we saw the same atmospheric phenomenon which I have already seen when I was observing (2nd picture in the linked post) with the IAC-80 in September, but now as the Sun went down at the other side of the Teide, the dark ray had a different direction. I had an intense discussion with one of the professors about the origin and nature of this phenomenon, and it took me quite a lot of time, to prove my theory. (Then on the next morning I realised that I was not completely right, but my renewed theory of “mountain shadow + anticrepuscular ray formed by the Teide” was accepted by both of us immediately.)


To close the day, we had a mind-blowing dinner halfway down from the mountain in La Esperanza. The amount of meat was unbelievable, I asked for chicken, and I got a half chicken. I mean, half of everything. It was huge. The professor from Texas told that the steak was huge even for him ;D And it was also delicious, not just a lot. We had no difficulties with falling asleep that evening… (There is also a short video about this day here.)


On Thursday, we had a computer session in the University of La Laguna (ULL), but – for some unknown reasons – we quickly managed to crash the network, which made things a bit more complicated :) Still, by the end of the 4 hour session, we – at least my group – managed to finish almost all the exercises. On the evening, we had the official closing dinner, in a fancy restaurant in the Orotava Valley, somewhere above Puerto de la Cruz. It was very nice. Friday was the last day with lectures, then on the evening we went out for a traditional dinner to a small restaurant which was run by a family. We ate several different meals (I even tasted the octopus…), drank a lot of wine, and still we only payed 8 € per person… It was unbelievable. On Saturday, we left Tenerife in 27°C, but I think it will not surprise anyone anymore, that we did not make it back to Belgium before Sunday noon. (We spent the night in a 4 star hotel next to the airport in Madrid, thanks to the Spanish air traffic controllers and payed by IBERIA). But when we arrived, than it was -1°C… Quite a different climate back in Europe…

It was a very nice winter school, I am happy that we decided to attend!